Beyond the Burning Time Book Poster Image

Beyond the Burning Time



Fascinating, graphic look at Salem witch trials.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Shows the danger of mass hysteria.


Explicit references to hangings. The lead character threatens her mother's persecutors with a knife and expresses her desire to stab them. Explicit references to witchcraft and a bloodthirsty mob. Mary Chase and Sarah Procter envision killing their mothers' persecutors. Children face the imminent hanging of their mother.


A farmhand watches Virginia Chase undress. Brief references to a widower engaging in extramarital sex. Virginia is stripped during an examination by leering magistrates.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that complex characters and a spine-tingling plot will have many readers racing through the novel to find out what happens next. Still, some parents won't feel comfortable when Mary tells her brother, "I will scratch. I will cut. I will stab. I will kill to find out where Mother is and save her."

What's the story?

In an age of superstition, the hysterical ravings of young women whip a town into a frenzy that will not end until twenty-four people have lost their lives. By turns exciting and horrifying, Kathryn Lasky's novel tells the story of Mary and Caleb Chase's race to save their mother, who must escape from Salem or be hanged as a witch.


Is it any good?


BEYOND THE BURNING TIME is a fascinating look at the Salem witch trials. Lasky excerpts much of her material from sermons, trial testimonies, and contemporary histories, cleverly blending fact and fiction. Her fictional characters are skillfully conceived and believable. Many readers will identify with Mary Chase, someone apart from the hysteria who struggles to understand the motivations of the young women and the townspeople supporting them.

The novel is packed with scenes of searing emotional intensity. When Mary views a hanging for the first time or when Virginia Chase tells her children to abandon her and save themselves, the scenes draw the reader in as a witness to these painful events. Ultimately, Mary becomes immersed in this culture of violence and tells her brother, "I will scratch. I will cut. I will stab. I will kill to find out where Mother is and save her." Though her response is certainly believable, it may disturb younger readers. This point aside, Lasky's novel is a riveting read that even many reluctant readers will find hard to put down.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the Salem witch trials. Do you think the women who were believed to be witches really had special powers that they used for evil means?

  • How does this book compare to other stories your read or seen in movies about the Salem witch trials?

  • Was the public justified in wanting to eliminate these women?

Book details

Author:Kathryn Lasky
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Pointe Pubs
Publication date:January 1, 1994
Number of pages:272
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14

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Teen, 13 years old Written byGabanator August 25, 2012

Pause and Know Your Kid

This book is really good at giving an interesting account of the Salem Witch trials. However a few things are not mentioned in the review. This is a direct quote from the book..." you know what you can do with those dam h#gs and wh#r#s yes yes shove them up your..." During the book an unmarried couple sleep together and it is questionable if they are fully clothed. A servant looks in his masters room as she is undressing and sees her silhouette through her chemise. One character speaks in salty language but nothing worse than the above quote. Also one of the girls talks about hearing her masters bed creaking and knowing what that meant...she was happy she hadnt heard that in a long time. The book also explains some of the hanging of the witches and could be a little much for preteen think before letting your kid read this. It was a required book for the 8th grade at my school, but it has some questionable material.
What other families should know
Educational value
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byjde0503 April 18, 2011

Perfect for all!!!!!!!!!!

For those that were throwing a fit in their reviews of this book for sexual behavior, violence, and bad messages I have the following things to say: 1. The world sucks and this book properly reflects that, children are entitled to these scenes of reality and obviously your children have a very sheltered life; I feel sorry for them. 2. Um, guess what! The Salem Witch Crisis was violent and showing that cruel violence is part of the point in this book! 3. This book was not condoning the condemning of women to death by accusing them of witchcraft; it was elaborating and expanding on a historical event. Obviously, you complainers are out of touch w/ reality! This book was great, eye opening, and extremely educational showing the ignorant and savage traits in man. One of the best I've read!
What other families should know
Educational value
Teen, 14 years old Written byalyssaa767 April 9, 2008

A must for ANY american

This book is amazing and powerful. I have read it twice! Once by myself and once for school. Powerful, descriptive, and a great thinker.


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